Harmonizing LCA data in feed production: Soy as a case study

Life cycle assessment (LCA) is a data intensive tool used to quantify the environmental impacts of products and services. Despite data access being essential for performing high quality assessments, robust and complete LCA datasets are in short supply even for key aquafeed ingredients, such as soy.

 

LCA, Soy and Land Use Change

Soy protein has been used for decades as a fish meal substitute, which has enabled feed producers to reduce their dependence on wild fish stocks. In addition, soy farming is relatively efficient considering its ability to fixate nitrogen from the atmosphere, thereby reducing fertilizer consumption. However, expanding soy cultivation can lead to adverse environmental outcomes, such as deforestation [termed ‘land use change’ in LCA]. When forests are cleared, the native habitat for a variety of species is destroyed and the carbon stored within the vegetation is released. These impacts need to be accounted for in LCA.

Most LCA practitioners account for land use change by applying country averages to all soy producers within a given region. With deforestation being a problem in many countries, these average emission factors are often quite high. This, however, unfairly inflates the carbon footprint of soy farmers producing deforestation-free products.

To acknowledge the environmental stewardship of best-in-class soy producers, BioMar is now collaborating with industry stakeholders to obtain farm-level LCA data. BioMar is in active dialogue with researchers and other stakeholders to ensure that these assessments are methodologically consistent, have a solid data foundation and are reproducible. This initiative addresses two of the biggest hurdles in sustainable development, namely:

 

  1. Ensuring robust methods for science-based decision making
    and

  2. Promoting market incentives for responsible production